General Nordic Mint snus: good news for US smokeless users (and smokers who want to quit)

This week, I chanced upon the opportunity to try this new product from Swedish Match North America and learn that it is on its way to the largest chain convenience stores in my area.

[Request to one of my readers from SM:  Could you put me in touch with your local (Philadelphia area) rep to discuss this a bit more.]

The product has been re-engineered for taste to better appeal to the American palate than do existing General products.  It seems like a very appealing product, a huge improvement (at least for this American palate) compared to the existing General mint-ish product, which just tastes like vile medicine to most of us.  There is also a version of the new product without characteristic flavoring, which is presumably a bit Americanized from the unflavored US version of General, which is perfectly good but still a bit un-American in its flavoring.  (For those interested in more and better product assessments, members of the “snus press” were invited to try these in June to generate some buzz, and several reviews appeared.)

More important, though, is the plan to broaden distribution.  Currently I know only a couple of local specialty shops that sell General, while Camel Snus and others are available at every gas station and most every cigarette store.  Many of these others are perfectly good products (we, of course, do not endorse any particular Western smokeless tobacco product over any other – they are all equally good for THR).  But I have heard many people derisively say, “that’s not real snus!” about the RJR product and others, so the new widely-available General, which seems to deliver more nicotine, faster, and from a smaller pouch than Camel, characteristics which likely appeal to many consumers.

The Swedes and Swedophiles have been saying for a year or two, “that should be our market!”, and this will be a good test of whether that works out.  But whether the new product eats Camel’s lunch or RJR stays as strong as ever, the result will be better for consumers, and thus for public health.  Never doubt that a single thoughtful company, trying to better serve its customers, can improve the world.  Indeed, it is the one thing that most often does.

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  • Tom  On December 11, 2011 at 2:31 pm

    Beside being in a white easily disposable pouch, what actually makes snus snus and not just chewing tobacco? Is there something about it different than in the manufacture of plain old-fashioned chew?

  • Jim  On December 11, 2011 at 9:36 pm

    Tom. I’ll try to give some info on your question. Snus is pasteurized (steam-cured), rather than fire-cured like smoking tobacco or other chewing tobacco. This lowers concentrations of nitrosamines and other carcinogens. What I have found is I can use considerably less snus than the amount of tobacco I consumed smoking. I went from 2-3 packs a day to 4 or 5 portions a day for the last year and 10 months.

    You mention the pouches (portions) which are convenient, but snus also comes as LOS, loose snus that you bake (compress into a pris) and use that way under your upper lip. I’m not sure why there is no need to spit with snus other than it’s placement under your upper lip rather than lower lip with dip. However, I’ve experimented with placing it under my lower lip and there was no difference in spit generation.

  • Jim  On December 11, 2011 at 9:52 pm

    Carl, what do you have against General Mint? I as well as some of the regular snusers from ECF find Mint to be our favorite go to snus. The last time I looked, I’m pretty American. LOL

    I haven’t tried the Nordic Mint, but I’m hoping it’s not that sweet taste you get from Camel products. Perhaps that’s what you mean by American taste. I think I read that they decreased the number of portions per can, but am not sure.

    The main problem I see for General products is getting distribution points. Until they can get them sitting on the same shelves as Camel and Marlboro, they will remain a niche product. My first snus product was Camel and it did the trick on getting me off smokes. However, the Swedish variety, once you got used to the salt taste factor is so much more satisfying.

    I’d love to be able to walk into a convenience store and pick up a fresh can of Mint or Onyx (and a ton of other flavors) rather than ordering a years supply from Sweden and freezing it. I’m just not sure that will happen politically in my lifetime.

  • Carl V Phillips  On December 12, 2011 at 11:02 am

    Tom, Jim has effective summed up much of what that word has come to mean. Strictly speaking, it just means “snuff” — it is the Swedish language translation of the English term, so there is not any true promise made when the word is used. As a marketing device or journalistic shorthand when used in English, it almost always means made in the Swedish style, usually means adheres to the standards for those chemicals Jim referred to (which may offer a tiny reduction in the already too-low-to-measure health risks of American products — it seems like it cannot hurt, but contrary to the rhetoric, there is no evidence it helps), and usually implies pouched products. In terms of its potential for THR, the only difference between it and traditional chew, as far as anyone can tell, is the breadth of appeal. The drug delivery and minimal health effects are similar.

    Jim, I realize that I have not tried (or at least do not recall) the current American version of mint flavored General. The kind I am referring to is what you get in Sweden, which obviously lots of people like, just not me. My impression of the Nordic is that it is a bit sweeter, though not as much as many American products, and I think they got it just right — but as I said, I am not the greatest connoisseur or product reviewer, so you might want to look elsewhere for a better assessment.

    And I totally agree with your point about distribution, which I may have underplayed a bit: I think the new distribution plans/deals are far more important than the product change. At least the two new products are supposed to be on the shelves of Wawa and 7-11 around here (don’t know about the rest of the country), which will put them right there beside Camel. If they succeed, I would assume that SMNA will buy a little more shelf space and try some of their other products there too. But I have still not talked to anyone, so this is pure speculation on my part.

  • Jim  On December 13, 2011 at 9:59 pm

    Carl, I wasn’t aware that we must be somewhat “neighbors” in the Philly area. I saw your mention in the blog asking for a Philly area SM rep, but it didn’t hit me till you mentioned WAWA.

    Do you have a time frame for them to hit the market? I’ll be one of the first to sample the Americanized versions.

  • Carl V Phillips  On December 13, 2011 at 11:14 pm

    Jim, Yes, I am here in The 610. I am not sure exactly what the schedule is, but I got the impression that they will be in stores quite soon — maybe next month. They may be available for mail order already.

  • James  On January 2, 2012 at 11:31 am

    I’m in the 717 area code and they just got it in my local Turkey Hills around here. I’ve never had General until the other day but was using the Camel Snus since it’s launch. Both flavors of General are pretty damn tasty and definitely have more nicotine then Camel. Also there’s a dollar off coupon in each of the tins in the little disposal compartment in the back!

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